Like most of the famed comedy troupe's shows, the content of Truth or Groundlings has almost zero to do with the sleepover game its title riffs on — and that's okay.
Are there humiliations galore? Yes. Cringe-worthy revelations? You bet. Hilarity that will stay etched in your brain for the next two decades, like the night someone put that kid’s underpants in the freezer? Let’s call it a couple months. But there’s still plenty of fodder here for solid laughs (along with a healthy dash of female alt-rock and high-waisted pants).
Directed by Michael Naughton, the Groundlings' latest blends '90s throwbacks with present-day settings for a series of sketches that build to intermission before going slightly off the rails, sanity-wise, in the second half. The SNL breeding ground thrives on outrageous, character-driven comedy, and this show is no exception: Annie Sertich and Lisa Schurga tear it up in an audience-participation bit as two biddy dance instructors teaching a hip-hop/CPR class while angling for their next fix. Matt Cook and Tony Cavalero carry off their bizarro characters, if not quite the actual scenes, through sheer comic braggadocio and enthusiasm.
But the strongest routines fall much closer to the everyday, with unremarkable encounters that strike a chord because we recognize the personas onstage. That’s the case with “Plus One,” in which some buddies meet up at a TGI Friday’s to meet one’s new girlfriend, and “Doing Great,” a late-night brush between ex-lovers at a 7-Eleven. In “Camping,” two middle-aged dads take their teenaged sons to the woods for some male bonding and get more than they bargained for.
These episodes also tend to be the best written, with tight, complete arcs that deliver lightening reversals with the elegance of a boxer’s one-two punch.
Groundlings Theatre, 7303 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 934-4747; www.groundlings.com
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